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Saints John Fisher and Thomas More: Following God’s law above all else

London, England, Jun 22, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA).- The feast of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More is observed as an optional memorial June 22. So that our readers don’t have to fish for more information, CNA has compiled a question-and-answer lowdown on their lives and legacies:

Who was St. Thomas More?

St. Thomas More (1478-1535) was a humanist and intellectual – he worked as a lawyer and explored theology through his written works, many of which were defenses of the Catholic faith against heresy. He studied at Oxford and briefly considered religious life, but he eventually followed a vocation to marriage and fatherhood.

More was appointed by King Henry VIII to be Lord Chancellor of England in 1529.

What does “Lord Chancellor” mean?

The “Lord Chancellor” was the highest ranking member of the King’s cabinet. This role was commonly filled by a clergyman. Historically, the role entailed great judicial responsibility – its influence has evolved to scale back on this particular front.

How did he manage to get on Henry VIII’s bad side?

St. Thomas More stood firmly in his Catholic faith when Henry VIII began to pull away from the Church.

The king wanted a declaration of nullity for his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, but the Church, upon examination, could not find his marriage to Catherine invalid. More refused in 1530 to sign a letter asking the pope to declare the marriage null, and would not sign an oath acknowledging the monarch as the supreme head of the Church in England.

In May 1532 Henry pressured the English synod, the Convocation of Canterbury, to submit the clergy's authority to his own. The day after the convocation agreed to Henry's terms, More resigned as Lord Chancellor.

More wished to retire from public life, but when he refused to assent to the Act of Supremacy 1534, which repudiated the pope's authority over the Church in England, he was imprisoned on charges of treason.

He was sentenced to execution, which took place July 6, 1535.

Why is he a saint?

More’s persistence to remain sided with the Church rather than the king, ending in martyrdom, was a testament to his tireless devotion to God’s law. He was canonized by Pius XI in 1935, and was named patron of statesmen and politicians by St. John Paul II.

I’ve heard something about his beard…?

Yes. You’re not imagining things, don’t worry.

The story with St. Thomas More’s beard is that he laid his beard outside of the execution blade’s path in one final, humorous gesture.

His last words were,“This hath not offended the King,” implying that while his head had angered Henry VIII, his beard was innocent and did not deserve to be severed.

  Who was St. John Fisher?

St. John Fisher (1469-1535) was ordained a priest when he was about 22, and was appointed Bishop of Rochester in 1504. He lived an intentionally simple lifestyle and was an intellectual. He studied theology at Cambridge, where he became chancellor. Among his writings is a commentary on the seven penitential psalms.

His mission as a bishop was to perfect how the Church’s teachings were conveyed by his diocese. Fisher spent much of his time travelling to parishes with the mission of theologically correcting and realigning clergy. He also wrote various apologetic defenses in response to Martin Luther.

What did he have to do with the whole Henry VIII situation?

St. John Fisher studied Henry's request for a declaration of nullity, but could not find grounds for such a declaration.

He refused to assent to the Succession to the Crown Act 1533, which recognized the king's supremacy over the Church in England and declared the daughter of Catherine of Aragon illegitimate, and was imprisoned for treason in April 1534.

Fisher was jailed, starved and deprived of all sacraments, but he didn’t budge on his position.

Fisher was made a cardinal in May 1535, in the hopes that Henry would not dare execute a prince of the Church.

Please don’t tell me it ended like More’s story…

It didn’t. There was no beard on the line.

However, Fisher was executed, head on the chopping block and all. He removed his hair shirt, and said the Te Deum and Psalm 31 right before giving his life for the kingdom of God and the honor of the Church, June 22, 1535. He is the only cardinal to have been martyred.

Why is Fisher a saint?

Same deal as More – he stuck to what he knew to be the truth and died for it. He was canonized with More in 1935 by Pius XI.

But he’s not nearly as well-known as St. Thomas More!

No, he’s not. St. Thomas Fisher’s grave, which also contains the bones of More, doesn’t even bear his name. But he did it for the glory of God.

Study finds mounting global restrictions on religion

Washington D.C., Jun 22, 2018 / 12:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Government restrictions on religion continued to rise across the globe in 2016, according to a recently released Pew study, which linked the stifling of religion to nationalist parties and organizations.

“This marks the second year in a row of increases in the overall level of restrictions imposed either by governments or by private actors (groups and individuals) in the 198 countries examined in the study,” said the Pew report.

The research found that 42 percent of countries experienced high or very high levels of overall religious restriction, which included hostile acts by government or private individuals or groups. This number is up from 40 percent in 2015, and 29 percent in 2007.

“This marks the biggest number of countries to fall in this top category since Pew Research Center began analyzing restrictions on religion in 2007,” Pew said.

“The share of countries with ‘high’ or ‘very high’ levels of government restrictions…rose from 25 percent in 2015 to 28 percent in 2016,” the study found. “Meanwhile, the share of countries with ‘high’ or ‘very high’ levels of social hostilities involving religion…remained stable in 2016 at 27 percent.”

The Middle-East and North Africa experienced the highest median level of government restrictions on religion, while Europe and the Americas were the only areas to experience an increase in median levels of social religious hostility.

Additionally, the research pointed to nationalist groups’ role in the rise of religious restrictions, particularly through targeting specific ethnic and religious minorities.

“In many countries, restrictions on religion resulted from actions taken by government officials, social groups or individuals espousing nationalist positions,” the Pew study noted.

Around 11 percent of countries saw government actors who “at times used nationalist, and often anti-immigrant or anti-minority, rhetoric to target religious groups in their countries in 2016,” – a 5 percent increase from the previous year.

European countries experienced this attitude most strongly, with around 33 percent having nationalist parties making statements against religious minorities, while 12 percent of Asia-Pacific countries shared a similar experience.

“Typically, these nationalist groups or individuals were seeking to curtail immigration of religious and ethnic minorities, or were calling for efforts to suppress or even eliminate a particular religious group, in the name of defending a dominant ethnic or religious group they described as threatened or under attack.”

Additionally, there was a 5 percent increase in countries where organized groups aimed to overtake public life at the expense of a religion.

The most popular targets for religious restrictions were Muslims, Christians and Jews.

“Looking at religious groups, harassment of members of the world’s two largest groups – Christians and Muslims – by government and social groups continued to be widespread around the world, with both experiencing sharp increases in the number of countries in which they were harassed in 2016,” the study said.

This research, which included 198 countries making up 99.5 percent of the world, comes from Pew’s ninth annual study of global restrictions on religion, which analyzes the “extent to which governments and societies around the world impinge on religious beliefs and practices.”

These levels were measured by government laws and policies, acts of individual or group hostility against religion, including armed conflict and terrorism. Harassment of religious groups was gathered by data relating to physical or verbal assaults, arrests, detentions, desecration of holy sites, and discrimination against religious groups via employment, education and housing.

The 2016 year was the most recent year in which data was available.

 

Farm bill with SNAP restrictions passes narrowly in House

Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2018 / 04:59 pm (CNA).- On Thursday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the 2018 farm bill, H.R. 2, which included controversial changes to food assistance programs that Catholic leaders had voiced concern over.

The Farm Bill is the main agricultural and food policy guide for the country. It provides funding for a number of programs and regulations in the food and agriculture industries.

The party-line vote was 213-211. No Democrats voted for the bill, and 20 Republicans voted against it. The same bill failed in May, when 30 Republicans voted against the legislation.

The most controversial element of the bill was a provision to change the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, previously called food stamps.

The farm bill would tighten restrictions on eligibility for SNAP. It would require people between the ages of 18 and 59 who receive SNAP to either have a job or participate in a job training program for 20 hours per week. Adults with disabilities or young dependents are exempted from this requirement.

Penalties for not complying with work requirements increase under the bill, from one month ineligibility to one year for a first violation, and from three months to three years for a second violation.

When the farm bill was being discussed in April, representatives from the U.S. bishops conference, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Rural Life, and the National Council of the U.S. Society of St. Vincent de Paul wrote a letter to leaders of the Congressional Agriculture Committee.

“Efforts to improve state workforce training programs by providing case-management, streamlining workforce programs, providing increased training slots and setting minimum standards are welcomed,” they said.

"However, the new workforce training program appears to lack sufficient investment to meet the additional demand for meaningful job training and skill building that will be generated by the new requirements,” they said in the April letter. The letter noted that the majority of SNAP recipients currently work.

“Moreover, rural communities may find compliance especially challenging given that job training programs are often located far away, and there is insufficient access to transportation,” the letter said.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said the passage of the farm bill was a step “moving toward a poverty-fighting system,” where Americans will be able to move out of a cycle of poverty.

“This is a big deal,” said Ryan in a statement published on his website.

Ryan referred to the SNAP reforms as “critical,” saying they will “close the skills gap, better equip our workforce, and encourage people to move from welfare to work.”

“These reforms will return agency to people, rather than keeping it in government, empowering individuals to reach their full potential and make the most of their lives.”

President Donald Trump, posting on Twitter, said that he was “so happy to see work requirements included” in the version of the bill that passed the House of Representatives.

“Big win for the farmers,” said Trump.

The bill now moves on to the Senate, where a bipartisan compromise bill is expected to be debated next week.

The Catholic Church's long history of resettling refugees in the US

Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2018 / 04:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic Church has resettled nearly one-third of all refugees received by the United States since 1980 through a public-private partnership with a high rate of successful integration of refugees into society, according to a report released in June 2018.

The Center for Migration Studies report examines data on 1.1 million of the refugees resettled in the U.S. from 1987 to 2016. These refugees came from more than 30 countries, including Ukraine, Iraq, Vietnam, Somalia, Bosnia and Burma.

“What we've found is that they are integrating, contributing, and accomplishing a lot in the United States after starting from basically nothing. Not surprisingly, we found that refugees with the longest residence have integrated the most fully in the country, and we provide statistics on how that progresses over time,” said Donald Kerwin, the primary author of the report, at a World Refugee Day event at the U.S. Capitol building.

Frances McBrayer has seen this successful integration firsthand in her experience as senior director of refugee services of Catholic Charities Atlanta.

“More than 90 percent of the refugees that we have resettled through Catholic Charities Atlanta were self-sufficient in 2017 within 6 months of arrival,” said McBrayer at the June 20 event.

“That means they are working, paying their own bills, and they are not receiving government cash assistance,” she continued.

This rapid success can be partially attributed to the committed volunteer efforts of local communities, according to McBrayer, who said that Catholic Charities Atlanta had 874 volunteers working with refugees last year.

Parish volunteers are matched with incoming refugee families, whom they accompany in everything from English practice and job applications to American grocery shopping.

In partnership with its affiliates, the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services resettles approximately 30 percent of refugees arriving in the U.S. each year through a network of more than 100 diocesan offices.

“In the United States, we offer a model public-private partnership,” said Ashley Feasley, director of migration policy for the U.S. bishops, at a congressional briefing co-hosted by Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services, and the U.S. bishops conference.

The U.S. also has one of the safest refugee programs in the world, Feasley said, as each refugee is required to go through extensive vetting, including a series of very rigorous interviews by the Department of Homeland Security.

“They will have their information checked by the FBI. They will have their information checked by the NSA. They will have much of their biographical information verified as well as going through a security check and a health check. All of this will occur before a refugee is ever finally selected to be admitted to the United States.”

Feasley explained how the U.S. refugee resettlement program as we know it today emerged out of the ad hoc charitable actions of faith-based groups in response to the Vietnam War. As a result, Congress passed the Refugee Act in 1980, which laid out a definition of who counts as a refugee and how resettlement would work.

The American Catholic involvement with refugee resettlement dates back even earlier, as documented in an archive exhibit at The Catholic University of America on the American Catholic Church’s refugee aid from the late 1930s to early 1950s.

Despite this history, the U.S. is on pace this year to resettle the lowest number of refugees in the history of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, according to the 2018 CMS report.

There are currently some 25.4 million refugees worldwide who have fled their countries to escape conflict or persecution, according to statistics released by the UN refugee agency on June 19. This constitutes the largest increase in refugees in a single year that the UN has ever documented.

World Health Organization no longers consider transgenderism a disorder

Geneva, Switzerland, Jun 21, 2018 / 01:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday, the World Health Organization reported it would no longer designate transgenderism as a mental health disorder in its updated classification of diseases.

“It was taken out from mental health disorders because we had [a] better understanding that this was not actually a mental health condition, and leaving it there was causing stigma,” said Dr. Lale Say, coordinator of WHO’s adolescents and at-risk populations team, according to the Huffington Post.

The WHO will now classify transgender identities as “gender incongruence,” in its updated section on sexual health conditions in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. This definition, according to psychologist Dr. Geoffrey Reed, is expresses “a discrepancy between a person’s experienced gender identity and their body.”

The American Psychiatric Association made a similar shift in 2012 when it revised its manual of mental disorders to remove transgenderism as a mental disorder. Instead, the association classified individuals who experience emotional stress related to gender identity as a person with “gender dysphoria.”

However, one Catholic psychologist said mental health experts are still learning about the intricacies of transgenderism.

“I think the mental health profession hasn’t really had time to really thoroughly catch up on it, besides those in the field who kind of just flow with the current of whatever is popular in the moment,” Dr. Gregory Bottaro, a psychologist with the group CatholicPsych, told CNA last year.

Bottaro added that the biggest concern with transgenderism is its effect on children and their fragile psychological development.

“With kids, it’s really important to recognize that their sexual development is so fragile, and the influence of what’s popular in the culture needs to be really, strongly filtered and studied and understood,” he said.

“The Catholic response is a return to true anthropology – male and female he made them – to understand that our biology and our psychology are not separate things, and so to encourage the development of a curriculum of human nature that is consistent with a true anthropology,” he said.

A sudy titled “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences,”  found that non-heterosexual individuals face a higher risk of adverse health and mental health outcomes. The study estimated they have a 1.5 times higher risk of anxiety and substance abuse, and face double the risk of depression and suicide.

The report additionally found that adults who undergo sex reassignment surgeries are at further risk for mental health problems, making them 5 times more likely to attempt suicide and 19 times more likely to die by suicide, compared to a control group.

There also remains vague findings on the mental health repercussions of sex reassignment surgery for transgender individuals.

A 2016 letter authored by 47 members of Congress noted experts remain ‘inconclusive’ on “whether gender reassignment surgery improves health incomes for Medicare beneficiaries with gender dysphoria, and that some studies have ‘reported harms.’”

The transgender population was recently estimated to make up around 0.6 percent of the total population.

Pope Francis: The Our Father is a spiritual roadmap

Geneva, Switzerland, Jun 21, 2018 / 11:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Lord’s Prayer is the prayer of the Church, confirming a person’s identity as a beloved child of God, and reminding Catholics of the responsibility owed toward their brothers and sisters in Christ, Pope Francis said Thursday.

“‘Our Father’: these two simple words offer us a roadmap for the spiritual life,” the pope said in a homily at Mass in Geneva June 21. The Mass took place at the end of a day-long trip to the Swiss city for the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches.

In his homily, the pope said the words “Our Father,” as taught by Jesus to his disciples in the day’s Gospel, reveal life’s meaning and a Christian’s identity: “we are God’s beloved sons and daughters.”

“Those words solve the problem of our isolation, our sense of being orphans,” he continued. “They show us what we have to do: love God, our Father, and others, our brothers and sisters. The ‘Our Father’ is the prayer of us, of the Church.”

Referring to how Christians call God “our Father,” he said in the face of offenses against God, Catholics are called to overcome indifference and to treat everyone as brothers and sisters: including the unborn, the elderly, the person who is difficult to forgive, the poor, and the outcast.

“This is what the Father asks us, indeed commands us, to do: to love one another from the heart, as sons and daughters in the midst of their brothers and sisters,” he said.

Catholics are reminded of God as Father also when they make the sign of the cross, he continued, noting that “where the Father is present, no one is excluded; fear and uncertainty cannot gain the upper hand.”

In his homily, Francis also reflected on the images of bread and forgiveness in the Lord’s prayer, stating that when Christians ask God for “our daily bread,” they are asking the Father to help them live a simpler life, focusing on what is most important, like “people over things so that personal, not virtual, relationships may flourish.”

The pope criticized the complication of today’s daily life, noting how many people rush “from dawn to dusk, between countless phone calls and texts,” filled with stress and preoccupied by change, with no time to see the faces of others.

He advised choosing a simpler lifestyle, one which “goes against the tide,” and pointed to St. Aloysius Gonzaga, whose feast day is celebrated June 21, as an example. Such lifestyle “would involve giving up all those things that fill our lives but empty our hearts,” he said.

Catholics must also not forget that Jesus himself is their “daily bread,” the pope said, criticizing the treatment of Jesus as a “side dish,” rather than as the center of the day and “the very air we breathe.”

Also reflecting on the element of forgiveness found in the Our Father, Francis stated that God frees the heart from all sin when he “forgives every last thing. Yet he asks only one thing of us: that we in turn never tire of forgiving.”

And if a person finds it hard to forgive someone, he should pray for that person and for that situation, asking God for strength, he advised.

“Let us ask for the grace not to be entrenched and hard of heart, constantly demanding things of others. Instead, let us take the first step, in prayer, in fraternal encounter, in concrete charity,” he concluded. “In this way, we will be more like the Father, who loves without counting the cost.”

 

Pope Francis meets with North, South Koreans in Geneva

Geneva, Switzerland, Jun 21, 2018 / 09:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a move aimed at bridging political as well as ecumenical divides, Pope Francis during a day-trip to Geneva met with representatives from both North and South Korea who are in Geneva for a gathering aimed at promoting unity among Christians.

The brief meeting, attended by four delegates each from both North and South Korea, took place before Pope Francis entered the main hall in the headquarters of the World Council of Churches (WCC) during his June 21 trip to Geneva to celebrate the organization's 70th anniversary.

For decades the WCC has been actively involved in promoting peace and unity on the Korean peninsula. The organization's president for Asia, Sang Chang, helped to organize the meeting with Koreans.

Chang is a minister with the Presbyterian Church in South Korea, and is widely known for her work in promoting peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula, as well as women's rights.

According to a communique from the WCC earlier this week, the North and South Korean delegations sang together June 17 as part of the organization's 70th anniversary celebrations, linking arms and joining their voices in singing a 600-year-old folk song called Arirang.

Thursday's meeting between Pope Francis and the Korean delegates came after several high-profile meetings among leaders from North Korea, South Korea, and the United States.

In April a historic step was taken when North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un crossed the military demarcation line within the Demilitarized Zone, which has divided the Korean peninsula since 1953, to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on southern soil.

During the summit, both leaders signed the Panmunjeom Declaration stating, among other things, that “there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and thus a new era of peace has begun.”

The leaders agreed to “the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula” and to actively pursue further meetings with the United States, and possibly China, to establish a more permanent peace.

It didn't take long for a meeting between leaders from North Korea and the U.S. to meet. Kim and President Donald Trump met for a historic summit earlier this month in Singapore, making commitments “to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.”

After the one-on-one with Kim, which focused largely on denuclearization, Trump attended an expanded bilateral meeting, which was attended by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chief of Staff John Kelly, and National Security Advisor John Bolton.

As a result of the meetings, Kim and Trump signed a joint-statement with four specific parts to the agreement, including a commitment to establish new U.S.-North Korea ties; to work toward achieving peace on the Korean peninsula, with a promise from Trump to end military exercises with South Korea; a promise from Kim to work toward the total denuclearization of the Korean peninsula; and a commitment to recover and repatriate POW/MIA persons.

Pope Francis has long advocated for peace on the Korean peninsula, and in April praised Kim and Moon for their “courageous” step toward unity, saying he prays for “the positive success of the Inter-Korean summit...and the courageous commitment assumed by the leaders of the two parts to carry out a path of sincere dialogue for a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons.”

The meeting between Korean delegates at the WCC in Geneva, then, was a further effort to advance reconciliation not only on a political level, but an ecumenical one.

The WCC was founded in 1948 and is a global fellowship of Churches and ecclesial communities whose goal is to promote unity among Christian confessions.

With some 348 members worldwide, the organization has long been a driving force for ecumenism in Europe. Members are present in 110 countries and represent more than 500 million Christians.

The Holy See is not a member of the WCC, but it is an observer, and collaborates with the organization in several areas.

Bishops' video series encourages prayer, action for Religious Freedom Week

Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2018 / 12:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has posted a video series for Religious Freedom Week 2018, inviting Catholics to pray and act in support of religious liberty.

“We have a duty to treat all persons with charity and justice, we have a duty to seek common ground in public life whenever possible,” says Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia in one video.

“But we also need to work vigorously in law and politics to protect our faith and to form our culture in a Christian understanding of human dignity and the purpose of human freedom. To do that, we need to defend our religious liberty.”

An eight-video YouTube series offers reflections on the importance of religious liberty.

The videos feature members of and consultants for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ standing committee for religious liberty.

Each day, a different bishop challenges Catholics to reflect on how religious freedom is connected to elements of the public square, such as medicine, immigration, and education. Other topics discussed in the video series include Christian persecution in the Middle East, and the importance of publicly proclaiming one’s faith.

Religious Freedom Week, held by the U.S. bishops’ conference, is observed this year from June 22-29. The theme for this year is “Serving Others in God’s Love.”

The conference website includes a list of suggested reflections, prayers, and actions that may be followed by parishes, families, and individuals during the week.

In the second video of the series, Archbishop Chaput highlights the importance of truth in politics, saying “dishonest language leads to dishonest politics, and dishonest politics leads to bad public policy and bad law.” He urges Catholics defend truth in the public sphere.

“As Catholic citizens, we owe it to our country to speak and to act in a spirit of truth and to insist on the same behavior from other people, including our elected and appointed leaders.”

Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska says that Catholic education is a key part of the Church’s mission.

“But there are forces in our society and culture which would like to inhibit our freedoms…to be able to teach what we believe is the truth about the human person, about the dignity of life as well as God's plan for marriage between a man and a woman,” he says, emphasizing the need for religious freedom in education.

Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ committee on migration, notes the role that the Church plays in immigration and refugee resettlement.

“The Church has long sought to serve the unique needs of people on the move: from providing for basic needs, to assisting with resettlement, to offering legal services to help newcomers navigate the system of their host country.”

However, he warns, in recent years, Catholic entities have faced legal challenges because they will not facilitate abortions as part of their work with migrants.

“Those that try to force the Church to choose between unborn children and migrant children are undermining religious liberty,” Bishop Vasquez cautions.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, who chairs the religious freedom committee, concludes the video series by appealing to viewers “to pray that we might continue to take steps to make room within our culture for the exercise of religious freedom” and “to use that religious freedom in the public square well.”

Tucson bishop elaborates on ‘canonical penalties’ for immigrant family separation

Tucson, Ariz., Jun 20, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- A bishop who suggested last week that the Church consider canonical penalties for Catholics involved in the separation of families at the United States’ southern border said Wednesday that penalties are not central to a discussion of immigration reform.

On immigration reform,  “the critical issue at hand isn’t canonical penalties, even if the concept has intrigued many. The real issue is children being used as pawns in a contorted effort at punishing their parents or deterring future asylum seekers,” Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Tucson wrote in a June 20 op-ed for the Arizona Daily Star.

At a meeting of the US bishops’ conference in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., June 13, Weisenburger asked if the bishops’ canonical affairs committee could offer “recommendations, at least to those of us who are border bishops, on the possibility of canonical penalties for Catholics who are involved in this.”

“For the salvation of these people’s souls,” he added, “maybe it’s time for us to look at canonical penalties.”

His remark drew national attention, though some canon lawyers questioned what exactly Weisenburger had in mind.

Weisenburger, himself a canon lawyer, did not mention specific canonical penalties; note what delicts, or canonical crimes, might be pertinent; or indicate whether he intended for penalties to apply to law enforcement officials, lawmakers, or others.

The bishop’s op-ed elaborated on his earlier remarks. Though it attempted to offer clarity, it did not specifically denote what penalties or processes the bishop had in mind.

In his op-ed, Weisenburger said he was not suggesting that Catholics involved in family separation be excommunicated. That penalty, he said, “can be imposed only at the end of a process seeking the conversion of the sinner and reconciliation for the community.”

Weisenburger suggested that canon law offers “lesser options preceding excommunication, such as prayer and penitential practices,” though he did not specify whether those options should also be understood as penalties, which, according to canon law, also must ordinarily be preceded by a legal process.

The bishop’s op-ed seemed to suggest that he intended that canonical penalties would apply to mostly to lawmakers, and not to law enforcement officers.

“As far as the question of canonical penalties for Catholics goes, again, the matter is quite complex. Canonical penalties are not ‘one size fits all.’ In a Christian ethic, legislators and political leaders who facilitate sinful actions have the greater share in responsibility for the resulting violence to human dignity,” he wrote.

The bishop lamented that family separation policies have caused “harm and anguish” for “good and faithful immigration workers.”

“Indeed, the average immigration officer — even if he or she recognizes the inherent evil in the action — might accurately conclude that he or she is able to be a force for good within his or her employment, aiding the situation more than contributing toward the harm of children. In such cases the immigration officer might be justified in his or her endeavors. And of course, immigration officers — like nurses ordered to participate in abortion — clearly deserve the option of conscientious objection,” he wrote.

Some canon lawyers have suggested to CNA that Weisenburger’s comments might have been intended to evoke canon 915, which prohibits Catholics “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin” from receiving the Eucharist. That prohibition is not technically a “penalty” in canon law, though it is sometimes referred to as one. However, Weisenburger’s op-ed said that he did not intend to suggest that the Church should “deny people the sacraments.”

Bishop Weisenburger declined to be interviewed for this story.
 
Weisenburger’s op-ed encouraged Catholics to think more carefully about the moral issues involved in immigration policy, rather than the canonical.

Encouraging Catholics to address the “ethical and moral quagmire” at the border, the bishop said that he prays daily “that we will awaken from our slumber and resume walking in the ways of justice, truth, and human rights, leaving the discussion of canonical penalties altogether unnecessary.”

 

US bishops ask that immigration reform protect families, Dreamers

Washington D.C., Jun 20, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The United States bishops have asked Congress to compromise on immigration reform to give legal protections for undocumented youth, known as “Dreamers,” and ensure respect for human dignity and families at U.S. borders.

A June 19 letter to the House of Representatives stated that the bishops cannot endorse changes to the immigration system that “detrimentally impact families and the vulnerable” as contained in new legislation brought before the House this week.

“We welcome the opportunity to dialogue with lawmakers and to discuss possible opportunities for further compromise,” wrote Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chairman of the bishops’ committee on migration.

The letter stated immigration legislation should be “bipartisan, provide Dreamers with a path to citizenship, be pro-family, protect the vulnerable and be respectful of human dignity with regard to border security and enforcement.”

Vasquez also reminded House members that family separation at the border can be ended without legislation at the discretion of the administration.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order June 20 ending the policy of family separation, except when there is a risk to the child's welfare. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan indicated that the lower chamber will vote Thursday on an immigration bill.

H.R. 6136 on border security and immigration reform was introduced June 19 by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and includes a proposal of a framework for Dreamers potentially to receive permanent residence and later citizenship in the U.S.

The framework would include the same criteria outlined in the DACA program, initiated by President Obama in 2012, which postponed deportation of undocumented immigrants under the age of 30, who had been brought to the U.S. before the age of 16 and lived in the U.S. since June 2007.

The new bill would require applicants also to have no more than one non-traffic-related misdemeanor, including for immigration-related offences; and if not a student or primary caregiver, to demonstrate the ability to maintain an income of at least 125 percent of the poverty line.

The new bill is on the schedule to be considered by the House in the coming week, along with H.R. 4760, which was introduced Jan. 10.

Vasquez responded to immigration bill H.R. 4760 in a statement Jan. 10, calling for financially sound, effective, and safe measures to strengthen national security at the U.S. border, emphasizing that Dreamers and their families “deserve certainty, compassion, generosity, and justice.”

He also acknowledged the nation’s right to control its borders, but cautioned against the introduction of “unrelated, unnecessary, or controversial elements of immigration policy – especially those that jeopardize the sanctity of families or unaccompanied children – into the bipartisan search for a just and humane solution for the Dreamers.”